I don’t even know where to begin. As a three-time Boston Marathon finisher, I feel such outrage, sadness, despair and disbelief. The only reason I wasn’t running Monday was due to last year’s record heat. It made it close to impossible to run a re-qualifying time. It was a brutal reminder that time becomes irrelevant when finishing against unfathomable odds. This year, finishing became irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was standing together in grief and in comfort.
The Boston Marathon is a legend, so long before Patriot Day hit this year, I set my sights on re-qualifying for 2014 and reached that goal in November after recuperating from the cancellation of the New York Marathon and then running a qualifying time in Seattle. For many who aren’t runners, the mystique of running Boston might seem arbitrary. The Boston Marathon isn’t just another marathon; it’s much more than pushing the limit to see what you are made of or completing a bucket-list goal. It’s about community. Whether you are an elite runner, a qualifier or a charity runner, what sets the Boston Marathon apart from all other marathons is the city, the people, and the experience. You are cheered, embraced and accepted for being bold enough to put one foot in front of the other with a sense of hope, expectation and purpose. Every township has its traditions and they are what a runner looks forward to and what pulls him or her through. Boston’s marathon is both a joyful and transformational experience that begins at athlete’s village and the starting corrals of Hopkinton, winds through the pristine New England communities of Ashland and Framingham, embraces the cheering and kissing women of Wellesley, resonates in the drums heralding the hills of Newton, holds close the cheers from Boston College and Fenway Park, tempts you with the beguiling Citco sign -- a familiar icon of the Boston skyline and ends amidst cheering crowds along the finishing stretch of Boylston decked out with its grandstands and banners.
Flags wave, families picnic in their front yard, children offer up orange slices or offer to spray you down with a hose on those hot days, or proudly wave Vaseline on a stick to soothe chafing thighs or any other part of your body in question. It is a happy race with exuberance and enthusiasm and as a runner you really feel like you will make it, whatever the odds. The people of Boston go out of their way to make sure you do. We have all heard that running a marathon is an analogy for life, but running Boston is an analogy for community. It celebrates the best in class for runners, charity, and civic pride. For me, an amateur runner that discovered a sliver of greatness in wide-eyed wonder, the Boston Marathon will always signify boldness laced with grace. It is my reminder that inside each of us are hidden talents, discoverable if you are brave enough to take the blinders off and surround yourself with people that make it believable, tangible, and memorable. The experience of running Boston is to be reminded that greatness is never achieved alone. Thousands of families, friends, spectators, volunteers, organizers and self-made coaches line the 26-mile course offering encouragement, enthusiasm and the right dose of momentum and adrenaline. They all make the runners feel and believe that they are heroes.
So now, Boston, it’s our turn to make you the hero. You represent courage and resilience with your unapologetic tradition of celebrating greatness. As you stand tall in the face of this cowardly act, I have no doubt your unwavering belief in community will be as critical to healing as the courageous first-responders. I also know that it will be my privilege to take the starting line in 2014 and prove that hope will always conquer fear regardless of time, place or civilization.
© 2013 Kelly Tweeddale